Risky Behavior in Teens With Cystic Fibrosis or Sickle Cell Disease: A Multicenter Study
Objective. To determine the prevalence and age of onset of common risky behaviors such as smoking and sexual activity in teens with cystic fibrosis and those with sickle cell disease and to compare their behaviors with those of adolescents in the general population. Design. Survey. Setting. All five major pediatric tertiary care centers in North Carolina (study participants with sickle cell disease or cystic fibrosis) and North Carolina public schools (comparison population). Participants. Three hundred twenty-one adolescents with cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease aged 12 to 19 years (mean age, 15.6 years; 49% female). Demographically matched comparison teens for each group were selected from 2760 in-school adolescents (mean age, 16.0 years; 51% female). Main Outcomes Measures. Prevalence of tobacco and marijuana use, alcohol use, sexual intercourse, sexually transmitted diseases, seat belt use, weapon carrying, and age of onset of these behaviors. Results. Chronically ill teens reported significantly less lifetime and current use of tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol; less sexual intercourse; less weapon carrying, less drunk driving, and more seat belt use than their peers. Nonetheless, 21% of the teens with cystic fibrosis and 30% of those with sickle cell disease had smoked; sexual intercourse was reported by 28% and 51%, respectively. Age of onset of these behaviors was frequently older for the chronically ill teens. Conclusion. Teens with cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease took more potentially damaging health risks than might be expected, although the prevalence was lower than reported by their peers. Future longitudinal studies should examine the relationships between chronic illness, physical and psychosocial maturation, and risky behavior. Screening for psychosocial issues, including risky behaviors, should be incorporated into the routine health care of chronically ill teens.